After almost two decades of attending Christian camps and conferences, along with weekly attendance at Sunday services, I’ve noticed something that makes me feel uncomfortable – most of my brothers in Christ are, what some feminists would call, sexist pigs!
I thoroughly enjoyed the 13½ years I spent working for Baptist Youth Ministries and my own local church in Dunedin. I met some wonderful people, both men and women, along the way. However, I noticed time and time again, when it came time for the really hard work at Christian events to be done (cooking and cleaning up), men hardly ever came to the party.
Maybe it’s not that big a deal. It could be that men are simply reverting to the kind of roles they fulfilled when people lived in caves. Men hunt and protect. Women create a home. Now, with the advent of supermarkets, there’s no need for men to go in search of food so their role is covered, but women still need to fulfil theirs.
The problem is that this insidious behaviour has found its way into our Sunday morning gatherings and it’s undermining our Christian education programmes. Fewer than 2% of early childhood teachers in New Zealand are men – the lowest rate in the world – a situation experts believe is a disadvantage for those in our education system. Almost 20% of primary school teachers in New Zealand are men, so a significant number of young Kiwis don’t have regular contact with an interested and caring male.
This is an unhealthy situation because boys and young men need father figures. The state of the nation’s education imbalance has created a wonderful opportunity for churches to provide an important point of difference. Sadly, in most Baptist churches, the responsibility for teaching the Bible to boys on Sunday mornings falls, almost exclusively, on women.
It doesn’t matter how committed the teachers are, it doesn’t matter how creative the teaching, it doesn’t matter how careful they are to cover the breadth and depth of biblical truth – if most of our Christian education teachers are female then our impressionable young men learn that real Christianity – faith that involves service and sacrifice – is only for women.
Of course there are other ways for men to influence boys in our churches. A good number of youth leaders, especially youth pastors, are male. Men can be involved as mentors, fellow music team members and ICONZ leaders but it may be too little, too late. As long as the teaching teams in our churches are predominantly female then generation after generation of boys will grow up thinking this is the norm.
My wife informs me it was this way when she was a girl, is this way now and is probably always will be, but I can’t accept that. There must be reasons why there are more women than men in our churches and maybe this is one. From their first experience of Sunday school, or whatever trendy name we give it, boys learn that Christianity is for girls.
Children and teenagers in New Zealand today are sometimes referred to as the fatherless generation due to the way the nuclear family has been decimated in recent times. Kids today are broken and need to be fixed up. We have a fantastic opportunity to meet this need by filling our children’s ministries, especially, with male teachers.
It’s time for a movement of real Christian men to take up the challenge.
• Randal Scott